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Wish for the Moon in Hand

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Wish for the Moon in Hand

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"No, that's not what I'm saying, the date didn't go badly," Jack tries to clarify, after he takes another sip of Balvenie. "Heather and I had a fantastic time. We talked for hours, we had a wonderful meal and split a bottle of wine, we had dessert, and I walked her to her subway. And, there was a goodnight --" He stops for a second and looks up at us, his expectant audience of four: Mario on his side of the bar, and Jocelyn, Diego, and me on the other. "Sorry, I'm still trying to be a gentleman about this. There was a goodnight kiss. There was a very amazing goodnight kiss. I kissed her goodnight. I kissed her goodnight, and she definitely kissed me back."

"So what's the problem?" asks Mario.

"So this is how it went the last time, too. We had a wonderful time, she thinks I'm awesome, everything went right, including the part where I find the courage I don't usually have and we kiss and there's supposed to be fireworks. And she's still not interested."

"Wait," says Jocelyn, "I don't understand. She kissed you goodnight on two separate dates, and she says she's not interested?"

Jack shrugs. "Yeah, and they weren't brief kisses, either. She even apologized for it later, like she was leading me on or something."

"Well, she is!" Jocelyn huffs.

"I don't know," I pipe in. "What if she's not sure, and she's using the kisses as a gauge? It wouldn't be the first time I've heard of a woman doing that."

"Me, too," says Mario, "but how big does her sample size need to be before it's statistically significant?"

Jack puts up his hands. "Plus, can we just consider for a moment what it says about me that a woman could be on the fence, then making out with me clinches it for her the other way??"

"Oh, Jack," I say, taking his hand for a moment, "that's not what I meant."

"So you've known this girl for how long, a month or two?" Mario asks.

Jack clears his throat. "Twelve years."

I kind of knew that already, but the four of us all look at each other. Mario adds, "Hey, I know they say you shouldn't rush things, Jack, but seriously --"

"Ha ha," Jack says as he puts his head in one hand and shakes it. "She was married for most of that time. In fact I think she was already dating him when I met her."

"They're divorced now?" I ask. He nods. "You weren't... y'know, waiting all this time for that to happen, were you?"

"What?! God, no. I mean, I had a little crush on her back in college, but as soon as the semester was over I put her out of my head, and I didn't even think about her for eleven years. As soon as we reconnected a few months ago, though, that was it, I was toast. I've never felt like this before." Diego pats him on the shoulder.

I raise an eyebrow. "Never?"

Jack laughs. "Yes, Debra, never. You were a little crush, too - a misunderstanding. I moved on." I'm mostly relieved, though my ego can't help feel a little twinge of disappointment at being so easily dismissed. But it was a couple of years ago already and he's a friend, and what's more, I'm pretty sure he's right. "This is different, though. It's hard to explain, but I can't give up on her and I don't think I should. She's told me very clearly how she feels, and yet I'm utterly convinced that something's going to change her mind." He takes a deep breath. "Problem is, up until recently, I guess I thought a really fantastic kiss might be the something that would change her mind. Now I need something else."

"That's hardcore, man," Mario shakes his head.

"Are you sure she's not just stringing you along to stroke her ego? I mean, maybe divorce was hard on her and she needs the affirmation."

"At this point, Jocelyn, I'm not sure of anything. But I don't think she's cruel enough to do that. At least not consciously. Besides - get this - when we talk about how I feel, she tries to convince me I shouldn't feel that way. She actually sits there and lists her faults."

"And that doesn't work?" asks Diego.

Jack tilts his head back toward the ceiling. "I find it incredibly sexy and endearing."

"Jack, buddy," says Mario, "you need to get away from her, and fast. You're obsessing, and she's just making it worse by indulging you. As long as you keep going after her, you'll never get over it, and you'll never be able to see the right woman when she does come along."

Jocelyn nods. "I agree, you're just setting yourself up to get hurt again and again. Plus, no offense, but at a certain point if you keep coming back for more it's just going to be creepy."

Jack looks at me, and I shrug. "I hate to say it, but I think they're right. If she doesn't feel the same way about you, I don't think this is what you think it is." Then Jack and the rest of us look at Diego for consensus.

"Let me ask you a question, my friend," he says. "She seeing other people that she is interested in?"

"Well, yeah. We talk openly about the other people we're dating - whatever else is going on, we've become close friends."

"And how does that make you feel about the other guy?"

"I don't know... disappointed that it's not me, and annoyed when I hear he's not treating her right."

"You want to get rid of him, keep her to yourself?"

"What? No! Listen, I just want to make her happy. If someone else can do that, I'll still be very disappointed that it's not me, but that's all I want, is for her to be happy."

Diego nods for what seems like close to a minute, then he takes out his wallet and slaps it open on the bar. "You see this lady?" Jack looks at the photo, and nods. "That's my wife," Diego continues. "She's gone, she died giving birth to our daughter, I think you know that. We were married for three years, and I knew her for two years before that." He closes the wallet and slides it back into place in his jeans, and we all wait to hear what's next, but he just stands there, until Jack speaks up.

"She was beautiful, Diego."

"I know it."

"So --"

"You think you can make this Heather girl happy?"

"Yeah, I think so. No, I know it. If she gave me the chance, yes, I know I could make her happy."

Diego leans forward and places his hand on the side of Jack's face, a gesture that surprises all of us. "Then if you want to try, you go start trying, and you don't stop trying until she tells you to stop herself. And you don't let anybody ever tell you it's a waste of time." He turns and walks quickly to the back room. I start after him, but Jocelyn grabs my arm - and she's right, I need to let him go.

Jack sighs, and reaches toward me with his now-empty glass. "If I'm going to go tilt at windmills, Debra, I'm going to need some more Scotch."

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